Tuesday, November 23, 2004

DIGITAL ONLY MUSIC: This is interesting: Universal are experimenting with a new way of working with artists - it's not so much the digital-only sample releasing that's new, but the slight shift in the artists favour - they'll get to keep their masters.

The idea is, basically, Universal will licence music from artists, making it available online. Artists get 25% royalties on every sale - Universal seem to think they're being generous in not making the standard deductions for packaging and promo giveaways, although since there aren't any, that's nothing to be overly proud about. If sales reach a certain point - 5,000, roughly - Universal pick up an option to make the thing into an old fashioned CD.

It's an interesting approach, although we're not entirely sure whether it is such a good deal for the artists - Universal getting 75% of the bunce for little more than a vague promise to "throw its considerable muscle behind the artists" - sure, they have the potential to market the husk out of them, but are they going to bother to do that with acts unlikely to ever break the 5000 download mark?

And even the master deal might not be all it's cracked up to be - do the artists get to hold on to the tapes if the CD option is picked up? We don't know, but it does seem to be unlikely that Universal would put itself out to promote a CD it didn't own the physical primary copy of. In which case: the digital only deal will only be a good thing for artists who don't sell that many, and its debatable if, for them, the advantages of being with universal would be worth the 75% of each sale they'd have to hand over. Only a schmuck would sign away 75% of their business without getting much back in return.

Having said all of which: It's an encouraging sign nevertheless. At last the labels are realising they're going to have to change the way they work. Ten years too late.